Success for the region’s racers

Morpeth Harriers round-up

Stewy Bell and Val Gill, North Eastern Counties Cross-Country team managers, can feel justifiably proud of their respective charges (male and female) following some quite outstanding regional performances at the annual UK Inter Counties Cross-Country Championships on Saturday, writes George Patterson.

The event, held on a slightly modified course that incorporated some very steep, hilly climbs at Cofton Park, near Birmingham, also incorporated the British World Cross-Country Trials and the final of the UK Cross Challenge, which meant that course designers were given the task of providing the stiffest of tests.

Despite conditions being slightly warmer and relatively drier than of recent weeks, athletes still found the course tough, especially on the newer, hilly sections that had been added, where each of the 10 events required one visit.

There was a prevailing headwind that had to be encountered, and it was clearly obvious it was going to be a survival of the fittest, to say the very least.

Three sets of team medals, plus three fifth places, a sixth place, a ninth and 10th place effort summed up an excellent day’s work by the respective North East Counties squads and only one of their 10 teams on show failed to make the top 10 in any race – and they still managed to finish a very respectable 14th of 41 county finishers.

Despite losing Durham City’s Dan Garbutt, who had gone down with a very heavy cold, the region still managed to win the Senior Men’s 12k title, with sterling efforts being performed by their eight runners, who all finished inside the top 80 of 283 finishing runners, although this meant that they would be unable to count in the nine-to-score result, all those who competed, including six from the ranks of Morpeth Harriers, could take delight from the fact that their scoring six had managed to clinch the team title for the fifth successive year, and also for the 10th time ever.

It was English National Cross Country bronze medallist Nick Swinburn of Morpeth who very much led the victory charge, finishing in an excellent fifth place, and only a mere 25 seconds adrift of race winner Andrew Butchart, the Scottish Champion, who won from the Welsh Champion Dewi Griffiths, with English Champion Charlie Hulson of North Wales and Sale Harriers taking third spot.

Fourth place went to Aldershot’s Jonny Hay, who was running in the Surrey colours.

In a superb finish, Swinburn just managed to fend off the close attentions of Essex’s Adam Hickey for fifth place, with Andrew Heyes of Yorkshire, who had denied Swinburn a national silver medal, a little further adrift in seventh place.

Second counter for the north eastern counties was another Morpeth man, Jonny Taylor, who after a bright start, had slipped back to 14th on the final exhausting circuit.

Next home from the region was Cheltenham’s north east based Phil Wylie, who finished a superb 20th, being followed home in 24th spot by Leeds City’s Carl Smith, who supplied the fourth count for the region.

Three places behind Carl was the north east’s fifth counter Lewis Timmins of Morpeth, and producing what was effectively one of the runs of the day, Morpeth’s Carl Avery marked his Inter Counties debut with a splendid effort to finish 41st, and closed the regions scoring account, to gain victory over Kent by 50 points, with third placed Middlesex a further 37 points adrift.

Other Morpeth Harriers competing in the Senior Men’s 12k event were Richard Morrell and Nathan Shrubb, who finished in 77th and 80th places respectively.

Another gold medal team win on the day for the north eastern counties, came courtesy of a splendid result achieved by their U15 Boys, who finished with their four counters inside the top 25 to finish in their 4.5k event.

With excellent packing by Max Pearson (sixth), Reece Curtis (ninth), and Josh Cowperthwaite (10th), a good result was always on the cards, and Morpeth Harrier Kieran Hedley more than confirmed their success, when he finished in an excellent 23rd spot as fourth counter, and slightly under a minute adrift of race winner Zakariya Mahamed of Hampshire, who at the end finished third behind the north east in team affairs with Yorkshire in second place.

Not far behind Hedley in 34th place, was his Morpeth Harriers club colleague Taylor Glover, who also produced an excellent run.

The north eastern counties third set of team medals on the day came courtesy of their U17 Women in their 5k event, where they took bronze behind winners Surrey, who were marginally ahead of Kent.

There were no Morpeth Harriers in action in the U17 Women’s event.

One of the finest individual performers on the day for the north east was Morpeth’s Scott Beattie, who after starting well was always showing prominently in the U17 Men’s 6k event, worked his way forward to finish in an excellent eighth place, to lead the region to fifth team place.

Also running well in the event was his Morpeth club colleague Nathan Cox, who finished in 35th place as the third scorer.

Another Morpeth Harrier in action in this event was Adam Gibbs who finished in 124th place as sixth from the region.

Morpeth Harrier Holly Peck showed again that she can rise to the highest of occasions, and in the U13 Girls 3k event she certainly didn’t disappoint as she mastered all her obstacles to finish an excellent 29th of 305 finishers, behind winner Olivia Mason of Cumbria, who added this title to her English National and Northern successes.

Peck led the region home to an equally excellent fifth team place behind winners Merseyside, with further close support coming from India Pentland (31st), Grace Varley (37th), and Rebecca Tilley (60th).

This was also the second time in seven days that Peck had beaten Varley, the north east champion.

The north east counties Senior Women’s squad who were denied the services of leading lights Rosie Smith of Durham City, and Morpeth’s Ashley Gibson, both due to injury, performed very well to finish fifth in their 8k event.

They were led home by Justina Heslop (28th), with further superb support coming from Danielle Hodgkinson (34th), Alex Sneddon (43rd), Morpeth’s Emma Holt (45th), Rachel Lundgren (83rd), and Alison Dargie (88th).

Another Morpeth Harrier in action in this event was Josie Cram, who finished in 198th place.

The north east U20 Men’s squad performed well to finish as fifth team behind Kent in their tough 8k event that was the curtain raiser on the 10 race programme.

Being the first to face the starter the athletes concerned could be forgiven for feeling a little daunted by the double looped hill area that awaited them, however, the main protagonists soon showed a keen appetite for success.

After a very sensible steady start on the almost three lap course, Morpeth Harrier Elliot Kelly eventually worked his way through the field, to run almost stride for stride with north eastern team-mate Jordan Bell of Blackhill Bounders, son of the Men’s team manager, who was of course proudly watching from the sidelines, seeing Kelly keeping pace with his offspring, and to help execute an excellent team outcome.

With Bell finishing 39th and Kelly only four seconds and a few strides away an excellent 40th, it was indeed the superb front running performance that the north east team boss would have wished for so early in the day.

Jack Willis’s placing of 50th and Liam Emmett’s 54th confirmed a well earned fifth team place.

Another Morpeth Harrier taking part in the U20 Men’s event was Phillip Winkler, who despite suffering an untimely nosebleed during proceedings, bravely persevered to come home as sixth from the region in 116th place out of 186 finishing athletes.

The north eastern counties youngest age group male athletes performed well to finish an excellent ninth in their 3k event, which was the second race on the programme.

Morpeth Harriers Daniel Dixon and Ross Charlton were both in action in the U13 Boys’ event, and on this occasion it was Dixon who made the best of things, when he came home as third counter in 56th place.

Charlton may have paid a slight penalty for an over enthusiastic start, as the immediate uphill section took its toll, with a prevailing headwind also playing its lethal part to hinder early aspirations.

He eventually came home in 79th place, and as sixth from the region.

Alison Brown was the sole Morpeth Harrier participant in the U20 Women’s 6k event.

She was fifth home from the region in 85th place out of 142 finishers.

The north eastern counties finished as 10th team behind Essex.

Finishing in 14th team place, the regions U15 Girls were their lowest finishers on an excellent day of performances.

There were no Morpeth Harriers in action in this event.

As a footnote, prior to going to press, it was confirmed that out of all of the competing counties from the UK, the north eastern counties had finished as fourth overall team, and was a true reflection of all of the hard work and effort put in by competitors on the day, and all of the efforts by the respective team managers in getting the squads together, and for all of their diligent preparatory work, a superb success achieved.

Another superb performance by a Morpeth Harrier at the weekend was Karl Taylor’s in Sunday’s St Helens 10k.

Taylor finished second to Liverpool’s U23 athlete John Ashcroft in a time of 33m27s. Ashcroft won in 32m35s.

Meanwhile in London in Sunday’s Finchley 20, Morpeth Harrier Andrew Lawrence continued his preparation for his forthcoming marathon appearance in the capital next month by finishing third in a time of 1hr54mins.

This Saturday several Morpeth Harriers will be in action at the English Schools Cross Country Championships at Witton Park, Blackburn in Lancashire.

Meanwhile there is local cross country action, with the final fixture of the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League, being held at Cardinal Hume School in Wrekenton.

Action gets underway at 12.15pm with an U11s Try it Cross Country event for boys and girls.

Senior Women are in action at 1.15pm approx, with the Senior Men’s event bringing the curtain down on affairs at 2.15pm approximately.